The Tri-City Americans threw a 10-year anniversary bash Saturday night. Unfortunately, the guest list included an unfriendly neighbor that turned out to be the life of the party.
The Spokane Chiefs - a nemesis here for the better part of 10 seasons - endured a 31-minute pregame show commemorating the Americans’ first decade here, then ran away from their hosts with a four-goal second period in a 6-3 win.
Marian Cisar and Brad Ference had three points as the Chiefs erased 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 deficits to win their third game in four tries in this young Western Hockey League season.
Cisar, Ference, Ty Jones and Blake Evans scored in the second period. Although it was Jones who knocked in the game-winner, Cisar delivered the stunning blow with the Americans on the power play nursing a one-goal lead.
Cisar turned that around in a hurry.
He broke free in the neutral zone after the Chiefs’ Ron Grimard picked up a no-look pass off the wall from Tri-City’s Craig Stahl. Grimard sent the puck to Cisar, who walked in on goaltender Aaron Baker, deeked right and shot low.
Tri-City’s Darrell Hay got that one back a minute later, but when Ference and Jones scored 49 seconds apart the Chiefs were on their way to their second straight over the Americans in the span of a week.
“Home openers may be great for the fans but they’re a disaster for players and the coach,” Chiefs coach Mike Babcock said. “You sit for an hour after you’ve warmed up, and when you get out, everyone is wound into the ground. And we’re supposed to play? There weren’t two completed passes in the first period by either team.”
Although winless in two games, the Americans took some solace in the regular-season home debut of Scott Gomez, who for two years was on the Chiefs’ 50-man protected list. Gomez, who settled for one assist, was most spectacular when he didn’t score. The 17-year-old center went end to end in the second period, split two defenders and bounced a shot off the crossbar.
Goaltender Aren Miller kept the Chiefs close in the first period, stopping 15 of 17 shots. A halfdozen of those - one a breakaway by Gomez - were quality chances.
Mike Hurley’s goal with Tri-City on a 5-3 power play put the Ams up 1-0. Hurley had an empty net to shoot into after Miller had come out of the crease to cut off Chris Flynn’s shot. The puck hit Chiefs defenseman Joel Boschman and Hurley was there for the cripple.
The Chiefs answered 5 minutes later when rookie Brandin Cote notched his second goal in as many nights. Grimard’s shot from the point bounced off the goaltender, Baker. Cote picked up the rolling puck and chipped it over the fallen goalie.
Jarrett Thompson, later ejected with 33 seconds left in the period, put Tri-City up 2-1 with a re-direct of Josef Melichar’s shot from the point.
Then came the second period, when the Chiefs took control, starting with Cisar’s short-handed strike. “The difference between Cisar now and last year is that before you could knock him off the puck,” Babcock said. “He was 168 pounds. “Over the summer he really put on some meat. He’s a lot stronger guy.”
The Americans played without tough guy Shawn Legault, who quit the team Monday over what coach Bob Loucks said was a difference in philosophy. Legault joined the Tier II team in Lebret, Saskatchewan.
Chiefs 6, Americans 3
Spokane 1 4 1 - 6
Tri-City 2 1 0 - 3
First period-1, TC, Hurley 1 (Flynn, Gomez), 5:26 (pp). 2, Spo, Cote 2 (Grimard, Suter), 10:29. 3, TC, Thompson 3 (Melichar), 16:15. Key penalties-Baker, TC, :19 (delay of game, served by McKay); Hurley, TC, 2:51; Ference, Spo, 3:36; Whitfield, Spo, 3:36; Hay, TC, 6:45; Jones, Spo, 6:52; Grimard, Spo, 16:41; Waltze, TC, 19:27; Ference, Spo, misconduct, 19:27; Schutz, Spo, misconduct, 19:27; Thompson, TC, game misconduct, 19:27.
Second period-4, Spo, Cisar 3 (Grimard), 4:43 (sh). 5, TC, Hay 1 (Capjack), 5:53. 6, Spo, Ference 1, 7:03. 7, Spo, Jones 3 (Vandermeer, Cisar), 7:52. 8, Spo, Evans 2 (Ben Johnson, Ference), 17:41. Key penalties-Vandermeer, Spo, 3:51; Hay, TC, 9:31; Evans, Spo, 12:29.
Third period-9, Spo, Jones 4 (Ference, Cisar), 18:23 (pp). Key penalties-Schutz, Spo, 2:30; Melichaar, TC, 4:19; Grimard, Spo, 9:20; Jones, Spo, 12:21; Miller, Spo, 15:00 (served by B.Johnson); Gyori, TC, 16:31.
Power-play opp.-Spokane 1 of 7; Tri-City 1 of 10. Saves- Spokane, Miller 15-9-7-31. Tri-City, Baker 11-10-6-27. A-5,565.